After a sterling season under former Bafana Bafana hitman, Benni McCarthy, the lanky 25-year-old defender earned himself a call-up to the Bafana Bafana squad for the upcoming COSAFA Castle Cup tournament currently under way.
“This is very big to me because this is what we play for: to represent our country. My family and community are very proud of me because of the journey they know I had to travel to get to where I am today and everyone knows how big this achievement is to me,” says the former pupil at Wesley Practicing School and Salt River High School.
It all started for Taariq on a very popular sports ground known by all in Salt River, the Shelley Street Sports Field. That’s where, at the age of 4, he started playing the game for fun.
“I can’t remember any type of feeling at that time, I just know I wanted to play football. But as I got older, I started to realise and feel it’s getting real now.”
He says his late father was also a “pretty decent football player” and both his parents were very supportive, driving him to training sessions and matches, no matter the distance.
And Salt River, he says, has always been behind him, win or lose, spurring him on to greater heights.
“What stands out about my community is they were very positive right from the start, sending messages of encouragement before and after a game.”
He says he never expected to crack the nod for Bafana Bafana so soon, but he’s always played as if the selectors are watching.
“I always have this saying: ‘Give it your all – you don’t know who’s watching’.”
When he isn’t dazzling the crowd with his defensive abilities, you’ll find this football star spending quality time with his children, playing an odd game or two of Fifa or catching up on sleep.
Messages of support, especially from the Salt River crowd, have poured in. Another Salt River local and Taariq’s former teammate, Ganief Stellenboom, said: “Yoh bru van my, I’m so so proud of you wallahi! Ay, we’ve come a very very very long way my bro! I wish you nothing but success going forward my brother!”
Ishmaeel Abbas from Salt River posted: “Dreams comes true brother. May you shine on the international level. That call up was coming. You had a top class season and you had of the best strikers in your pocket. There is something bigger going to come.”
Taariq says he also plans to carry on impressing at club level in the new season to grab higher honours with his Cape Town City FC team.
“I want to get more call ups and I even want to get the chance to play in Europe one day.”
To the youngsters out there with dreams of following in his footsteps, he says: “Stay away from the wrong that leads you astray. Always have discipline, respect and be the hardest worker in your team and be very dedicated in what you do. Like being a wave in the sea, there are always rocks, but they just keep coming, so if there are rocks in your life, just keep going. The sky is the limit, the future is yours. You are the creator of your own destiny.”